April 4, 2005
Red Lake, Minn. — It's been two weeks since the shootings in Red Lake. The dead have been buried. Life is starting to go on. Elementary students will go back to class April 11.
For Red Lake High School students the future is less clear. School board officials are trying to decide what's best for the students. No one, it seems, wants to return to the building where eight people died. But there does seem to be agreement; the students need to go back to school.
Jim Hess, the superintendent of Bemidji schools, says the district has a building in Deer Lake that could be used as a high school.
"It's something that we would offer as good neighbors," he says.
The building was used as an elementary school before it closed. The building sits between Bemidji and Red Lake. Hess believes it's important for area school districts to help the Red Lake schools as much as they can. He says surrounding school districts share that attitude and that's why they've come up with what might initially seem like an unfriendly plan.
The districts have all agreed to refuse transfer students from Red Lake, but Hess says people shouldn't get the idea the kids aren't welcome. He believes it's important the students stay in Red Lake to help their school survive.
"Because in Minnesota we're compensated or paid for the number of students we have enrolled and for a school district to accept students from a neighboring district, basically you're taking away some of their resources and certainly a great deal of their finances," he says.
Moving classes to the Deer Lake building is just one option for the Red Lake School Board. Students could share the elementary and middle school.
The biggest question remains: will the school be safe? The FBI and other law enforcement officials are still investigating the shooting. There is concern that teenage gunman Jeff Weise may have had accomplices. There is some talk of putting armed police officers at the school when it re-opens.
Rebecca Barrett, whose daughter is a senior at Red Lake, says school needs to start again soon, but doesn't like the idea of returning to the high school building. She thinks it would be too traumatic. She also believes theres a better alternative to armed guards.
"Have the parents walk the halls," she suggests. "My husband and I are willing to come and walk the halls. Let me ask you something: would you rather see someone walking by... a normal person like myself or would you rather see a police officer with a gun? Especially kidwise, you want to see a parent walking by where they're going to say, 'yes we're safe.' That's what they want."
Barrett is thankful for the support and help Red Lake is receiving.
"When someone's there to help you and hand your hand out while you stumble and fall, you're going to take that hand, no matter what color; no matter what you're going to grab that hand and help up," she says.
The Red Lake School Board hopes to decide by Wednesday how to proceed. Until then, it's inviting members of the public to voice their opinions to the board.